For many professionals, remote work was a temporary adaptation to pandemic-related closures. But now WFH lingers as a growing trend. According to some forecasts, 25 percent of the U.S. workforce will work from home by the end of 2023. Some jobs are remote by nature. In other cases, companies are offering employees geographic flexibility based on popular demand. In many cases, such arrangements are made possible by relatively recent technological innovations like video conferencing and file sharing.

A peek at a few workspaces on the Coastside shows that many workers need more than a desk. Natural light, ocean views and modular setups often top the priority list. The goal: Create a space that fuels productivity while supplying inspiration.

Zehava Vardy, Moss Beach

Outside business hours, Zehava Vardy likes to use her workspace for leisure. Bright and natural, her home office in Moss Beach doubles as a painting studio.

“I painted as a kid, and then I studied mathematics and computers,” said Vardy, who is director of software engineering at a Bay Area tech company. “I just ignored painting for a while, but then it came back to me.

“Painting can be very healing,” she added. “If you paint, you just feel happy.”

After buying her house in 2021, Vardy said goodbye to the carpet and dark paint in her office-studio. Now middle-brown wood floors and matte white walls offer a soothing feel and allow decorative elements like her colorful paintings to truly shine.

Vardy’s workday starts on the top floor of her house, where she holds a morning session of meditation and yoga. On the middle floor, she stops in for coffee and breakfast. Then she proceeds to her office, located on the garden level. Glass doors frame a terrace that is graced with flowerpots. In the distance: the Pacific.

“I look a lot at the ocean throughout the day,” said Vardy.


Carrie Hollister, Half Moon Bay

In a word, Carrie Hollister’s live-work space is "zentastic." Open, airy and full of sun, the room is striped on one side with windows looking out onto the bluffs of Half Moon Bay. Additional light enters via skylights.

“The light can be challenging,” said Hollister, a painter and jewelry designer who also works with textiles. “It’s wonderful and saturated. But, for painting, sometimes it’s a little strong.”  

Hollister’s solution: Maintain a state of flow. Drawer units full of supplies and nesting work tables that tuck out of sight when not in use are all outfitted with wheels.

“I don’t like to get too settled in one space because I feel the energy becomes a little stifled,” said Hollister.

On the north end of the spacious room, travel sketchbooks lean against the sides of narrow cubby holes. Works on paper — some finished, some in process — lay in flat files. The absence of clutter is conspicuous and liberating.

Hollister converted the erstwhile yoga studio into its current incarnation during the pandemic, adding a galley-style kitchen and a sleeping loft. In other times, the space has served as a railway building and an agricultural storehouse.

“Transformation is key,” said Hollister.


Pete and Katie Kostiuk, El Granada

Pete and Katie Kostiuk spend their workday sitting side by side, surrounded by natural beauty. Both Coastsiders’ jobs are fully remote. Pete is an information security engineer and Katie is an architect who owns Fat Pen Studios. The couple’s four-story hillside home in El Granada is one of her residential creations.

“We wanted corner glass in the office to maximize the view,” said Katie Kostiuk. “When we sit here, we look out and see deer outside the window.” On the right side of the room is a woodland. In the distance, in the other direction, the Pacific Ocean spreads out beneath the horizon. There is always plenty to see.

“We were watching a huge rain cloud over the ocean yesterday, just pouring rain on the horizon,” said Katie Kostiuk. “And we see all the freighters go by.”

For the Kostiuks, simple office furnishings suffice: a long, clean-lined table that they share. There are two basic chairs and matching computer monitors. They have a special appreciation for, of all things, the door.

“Previously we were always working in an open room,” said Katie Kostiuk, explaining that they are the parents of a whirlwind preschooler. “When we moved here, we had an office and we could close the door. That was huge.”


Marcus D. Najera, El Granada

During the pandemic, radio personality Marcus D. Najera, of El Granada, received a home office in a box.

“It all came in that — the microphone, the soundboard, and a Microsoft Surface Pro (computer),” said Najera, pointing to a hard-sided case bearing the iHeartMedia logo. Najera hosts a talk show with Corey Foley on STAR 101.3, and their show aired uninterrupted during COVID.

“It was so weird to call myself an essential employee for the stupid things I get to do every morning like discussing whether or not a hotdog is a sandwich,” said Najera.

Najera set up his new studio equipment in the in-law suite of his house. Then he made some additions of both the technical and sentimental kind. As a first order of business, he installed a top-speed internet connection. He also put mementos from his broadcasting career on display, including a guitar signed by Slash, of the rock band Guns N’ Roses. As a finishing touch, Najera hung a “Live On Air” sign above his workstation.

“I tried to make it look as much like a radio station as I could,” said Najera.


Mauro Ffortissimo, Half Moon Bay

Who says you have to work at a desk? Half Moon Bay-based artist Mauro Ffortissimo plans his public art events in a lounge with a wood-burning stove. He also clocks creative time seated at a grand piano or standing in front of a large-scale canvas. Yes, his studio is enormous — although you might be tempted to call his workspace a library, a gallery, or a shrine.

Several years back, Ffortissimo renovated the former dairy barn in exchange for a lease with the landlord. He poured concrete floors, installed steel support beams, upgraded the electric wiring — the works. The once dark interior was transformed by adding a long row of skylights. Over time, Ffortissimo has filled the space with friends’ paintings, a carefully curated book collection, and sundry art objects such as the hanging mobiles that he makes with repurposed piano parts.

In the interest of full disclosure, Fforissimo does own a desk. And he even works at it.

“I sit at my desk and write poetry into notebooks, and then I go and type my poems into my computer by the fire,” said Ffortissimo.

April Seager is a staff writer covering events and endeavors in the Coastside community. She received a master of arts in German literature from Brigham Young University and completed graduate work in German studies at Washington University in St. Louis.  

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